In the December/January 2009 issue of Men’s Fitness, we introduced you to Kevin Love, the Minnesota Timberwolves rookie power forward. Love was a dominating college player at UCLA, earning Pac-10 Player of the Year honors as a freshman, but he suffered from a perception that he was carrying too much baby fat. After helping to lead his Bruins to a third-straight Final Four appearance, Love bolted from college basketball for the pros. He wasn’t going to get by on being bigger or stronger than anyone anymore. Love knew he had to drop a few pounds.
Love’s strengths —his ability to get position in the post, his fast-break inciting baseball pass, his gutty rebounding —were all characteristics of a smart veteran, but that’s a back-handed compliment that’s more a knock on his conditioning than a testament to his on-court skills. “I felt like everybody was against me,” says Love of some of his criticisms. “They were saying I had an old-school game because I wasn’t athletic enough.” That’s why Love hoped on the Sunfare diet, a plan that required him to confront his problematic eating habits, and step up his cardio, dropping 15 pounds before draft day last June.
After trimming some weight, Love is much more agile and athletic than he’s ever been. “I couldn’t move well laterally, couldn’t move great overall,” he says. “Now I’m definitely moving better and also recovering faster.” He’s also added a few inches to his vertical. As draft night approached, it looked more and more like he would fit in with the Minnesota Timberwolves, an organization run by another former forward with an old-man game, Kevin McHale. Love was snapped up by the Memphis Grizzlies and later traded to the Wolves, principally for fellow one-and-done phenom OJ Mayo.
Love, a student of basketball, was honored to feel so wanted by McHale and his staff. “I used to watch old Celtics tapes,” says Love. “I really took a liking to him, and I used to practice his moves in my driveway since I was 6 years old.” He feels like he’s a great fit on a young team, earning starter minutes alongside fellow big man Al Jefferson. “It’s easier to relate to guys that are 23, 24, 25,” says Love. The team’s youth will come in handy as they’ll likely get run off the court more than a few times this season. “It’s going to be tough,” says Love. “We’ve got the most back-to-back games out of anyone in the whole league.” Thankfully, his body is in good enough shape to handle it.